A.S. Council is once more slashing funds for student orgs. Down from $500 last year, the maximum annual grantable amount to student orgs is now at a meager $100 per year. A cut this drastic raises the question of whether council’s funding processes for student orgs have been working. The answer is easy — they haven’t.
Although the council provides services such as A.S. Safe Rides and A.S. Lecture Notes, it is a common conception that the council most directly affects the students through student org funding. This year’s council must deal with a $268,000 deficit inherited from last year’s council — a consequence of large expenditures, miscalculations of budgeting and an over-allocation of funds from the past five years totaling $110,000. Although it is hard to predict the under-enrollment that caused some of the deficit, because of this, last year’s council over-allocated $110,000 and overspent by $70,000. This year’s council has already made $154,000 in cuts, from internal budget cuts of 5 percent from each office.
This deficit has led council to cut back on funds for student orgs and reevaluate its fiscal plan for this year. As council does so, it needs to specifically focus on an overhaul of how it handles funding for student orgs. Vice President of Finance Bryan Cassella is planning to create a 10-year finance plan that he will present at the end of the year, aimed at helping future councils make long-term financial decisions. The multi-year plan — which will include a plan to pay back the deficit — is a great idea and will hopefully compensate for the previous lack of long-term planning.
According to the 2012-13 A.S. Funding Guide, the Office of Finance and Resources is working to modify several of its financial practices, including monitoring student org events for their success so that those with the greatest impact across campus receive priority funding. The funding guide states that A.S. Council will fund events that fulfill at least one of the following criteria: reaches out to a wide audience of undergraduate students, works to advance student interests, furthers wellness and well-being, encourages collaboration amongst other on-campus organizations, educates positive learning outcomes, contributes to the community or develops leadership and communication skills.
Furthermore, a new policy of a tiered fund allocation system has been instituted based on averages of overall funding requests from the 2011–12 academic year. This ranges from being able to request up to $150 for events that are expected to have 0 to 25 expected attendance, to $9,000 for those expected to have over 501 in attendance. These funding principles will promote the consistent apportionment of student fees.
While Cassella’s 10-year plan will help with future budgeting, the council also needs to work on being more stringent on the requirements for creating a student org. Applying for funding is not a difficult process—in fact, it’s almost too easy. The requirements for receiving A.S. funds are simply that the principal members must all be undergraduates and that the org must be registered with the Center for Student Involvement. The funding process can be done by any organization that claims to need money. In October 2010, UCSD students Utsav Gupta, Josh Grossman and Cody Marshall attempted to register 89 illegitimate media organizations to detract funds from The Koala, and to make a point that council needs to reevaluate how it funds media organizations.
Additional funds are granted to student orgs on a case-by-case basis, but sometimes these funds are over-allocated. In Spring 2010, the arts and fashion magazine No. 15 was granted $15,000 from A.S. to print its debut issue. The financial repercussions of this are still felt today.
Furthermore, the council needs to take a closer look at the number of student orgs that it allows on campus. According to the Center for Student Involvement, there are currently 342 undergraduate student orgs registered for the 2012–13 academic year. While part of having a free and open campus is that everyone should be allowed to create an organization, this freedom comes at the cost of taking away funds that other established orgs need. There are several different orgs in each org category, but having many similar orgs may not be necessary. More money could be allocated to each org if the rules for creating an organization were stricter.
The bottom line is, the 10-year plan is a step in the right direction, but A.S. Council needs to more closely monitor the activities of the orgs it finds to ensure that all the money is going to proper use.